Former rebounding champion Clint Capela is holding the Atlanta Hawks back

While Clint Capela was a revelation for the Atlanta Hawks when he arrived via trade, he is now appearing to hold the Hawks back for a few reasons.

Feb 2, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic (20) and Atlanta Hawks center
Feb 2, 2024; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic (20) and Atlanta Hawks center / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks (24-31) have taken a free fall down the NBA rankings when it comes to defensive rating. They are last in the NBA and with the way that they are playing, are not looking likely to improve any time this season. While they have some quality defensive players, the Hawks are living in the past when it comes to their starting center.

Clint Capela was a defensive beast when he came to the Hawks. He led the league in rebounding and averaged 2.0 blocks per game. He even received six votes in the Defensive Player of the Year award. Capela even had his first triple-double ever in that season with 13 points, 19 rebounds, and 10 blocks against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Capela was instrumental in helping the Hawks get within two games of the NBA finals. The Hawks thought enough of Capela to extend his contract, signing him for an extra two years at $45.8 million which will expire at the end of next season. To say that he is not living up to that deal now is an understatement, Lets have a look at how this is impacting the Atlanta Hawks.

Why the Atlanta Hawks need to move on from Clint Capela

Capela is no longer the defensive presence that he once was. He is almost a liability against centers that can shoot from beyond the arc and his body is starting to let him down. As a result, he is not the same presence at the rim, nor can he be trusted as a last line for his perimeter players.

On top of that, his rebounding numbers are decreasing as the years progress, although he is still keeping up his numbers at the offensive end. With his long-time front court partner John Collins being traded in the offseason, Capela should have seen a spike in his defensive rebounding numbers, Unfortunately, this has not been the case this season.

Offensively the Swiss big man relies on putbacks and his teammates to create open looks within two feet of the hoop. With Collins gone and Dejounte Murray not spacing the floor as well as Kevin Huerter, Capela does not have the same space to run to the hoop as he once did. This is not allowing Trae Young the same freedom that he once had in the lane either.

As a result of this, Capela is shooting the worst number from the floor since his rookie season at 57.5 percent. While this appears to be a good number, his career number is 62.4 percent and the NBA is a game of inches where a slight drop can have a big imapct. He is also only being assisted on 63.9 percent of his buckets which is the lowest number of his career.

Should he be averaging more points this could actually signify development, but it does not. In fact, without his offensive rebounding numbers, Capela is relatively innefective at the offensive end on one of the stronger offenses in the league. A center who can space the floor and has the ability to create for themselves would be a much greater benefit for the franchise moving forward.

Then there is the matter of his contract,. The Atlanta Hawks do not have much room to move next season with a roster not capable of competing for a playoff spot right now. The $22.2 million due to Capela next season could be spent in a way that actually helps the Hawks if they can get him off the books.